A jury in Oakland., Calif., has acquitted one of two men of involuntary manslaughter for his part in organizing a party at a warehouse known as "the Ghost Ship" that turned into a deadly inferno claiming the lives of 36 people in December 2016.
Max Harris, 29, was found not guilty after a three-month trial. The jury was unable to reach a verdict for the other defendant, Derick Almena, 49, who was the reputed leader of the warehouse and makeshift artists' collective.
Both men had faced up to 39 years in prison if they had been found guilty of felony involuntary manslaughter.
The verdicts are a setback for prosecutors who had run into roadblocks on their way to trying to prove that Almena and Harris bore responsibility for the blaze in the East Oakland neighborhood that shook the city.
Last year Almena and Harris had pleaded no contest to charges of manslaughter. A judge was prepared to sentence them to nine and six years in prison, respectively, but he abided by objections raised by families of the fire's victims who argued in dramatic courtroom presentations that the sentences were too lenient.
More recently, jury deliberations were delayed after Judge Trina Thompson dismissed three jurors for misconduct and ordered the panel to restart deliberations anew with three alternate members.